MRR Review: "Dumbbells"

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A former basketball star suffering from a knee injury looks to rehab himself at a rundown Los Angeles gym.
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Rating: R
Length: 74 minutes
Release Date: January 10, 2014
Directed by: Christopher Livingston
Genre: Comedy

"Dumbbells" tells the comedic exploits of a former college basketball star, Chris Long. Following his glory days as an undergraduate, Long becomes a trainer at a rundown Los Angeles gym. The film centers around the owner's decision to develop a reality show around the venue and its regulars, a plan not enthusiastically received by the other inhabitants of the place. Ultimately, Chris and the owner form an alliance to make the reality show a reality, restore the luster of the gym and face their individual demons that haunt them from their respective pasts.

"Dumbbells" is compared to "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," both films telling the tales of misfits and underrated folks who ultimately rise to the occasion, with healthy doses of laughter along the way. "Dumbbells" does follow a tried-and-true formulaic approach often associated with buddy comedies, particularly those that feature lackluster chums who rise above their circumstances and enjoy surprising success. Nonetheless, although following this formula, the end result is not a tired movie. Rather, "Dumbbells" is a light-hearted jaunt, which includes a nicely presented message about overcoming difficulties.

Designed to entertain and amuse, "Dumbbells" achieves this goal, both through punchy dialogue, pratfalls and an array of clever sight gags. In addition, a diverse cast truly brings the movie to life. Targeted for a younger crowd, including college-age and other young adult moviegoers, the type and tempo of the humor included in the movie fits the bill. Nothing in the film is intended to be sophisticated. Rather, the intent is to entertain at a gut level.

"Dumbbells" represents Christopher Livingston's second turn as a director. His previous directorial credit is the 1999 comedy "Hit and Run," in which he also starred. Livingston garners recognition for making characters truly meaningful, even in the midst of uproarious comedic scenes. One of the pleasant aspects of "Dumbbells" is the reality that most moviegoers will care about the characters, despite the high-ball comedic overtones of the movie itself. Often, the uniqueness of an individual character is overlooked in this type of comedy. Such is not the case with "Dumbbells." Moviegoers will root for the waylaid basketball player and the faltering gym owner as they work to revive the gym via a reality show.

"Dumbbells" benefits from a smartly crafted screenplay by Brian Drolet and Hoyt Richards. In addition to crafting the screenplay, Drolet also plays the lead, the down-on-his-luck former NCAA star, Chris Long. Richards plays the gym owner, Jack Guy. The fast-paced script works not only to draw moviegoers in from the start but to keep their attention throughout.

A strong performance is put in by Brian Drolet as Chris Long, the sidetracked basketball star. Known for his performances in lighter comedies, Drolet delivers in "Dumbbells." He makes the Chris Long character not only truly entertaining but likeable and empathetic. Because of Drolet's performance, a moviegoer not only cares about what happened in Long's past but wants him to prevail in bettering the gym and his own existence.

Fresh from a role in the highly acclaimed "Magic Mike," Mircea Monroe is cast as Kim Hertz, the female lead in "Dumbbells." Monroe is touted as one of the true up-and-coming actresses working in Hollywood today. She deftly maneuvers through the flick, turning in an engaging, entertaining performance. She successfully expands her repertoire after "Magic Mike" in this more laidback and casual movie.

The film includes cameos by some big name Hollywood stars, including Carl Reiner, Tom Arnold and Jay Mohr. Romance book cover model Fabio even takes a humorous turn as himself in the production. An easily missed cameo is that of Nancy Olson. Olson, a popular Disney star in the 1950s and 1960s, is the mother of the film's director, playing Bianca Cummings in "Dumbbells." Although the main players support the film admirably, the addition of these well-known celebrities spices up the storyline and gives the flick an extra boost.

Jaleel White is a cast standout. White is best known to younger audiences as the voice of Sonic in the "Sonic the Hedgehog" franchise. He is well known to older people as the nerdy Steve Urkel, the iconic character from the 1980s and 1990s sitcom "Family Matters." In "Dumbbells," White invades the screen as The Leader, a part he plays to the hilt.

"Dumbbells" is a solid choice for a relaxed night at the megaplex. Without pretensions, the goal of the movie is to make an audience laugh and root for a group of underdogs. Geared toward a younger movie-going crowd, "Dumbbells" is on target to well amuse that demographic.

Rating: 3 out of 5